Hockey

NHL expansion storyline tops list of most boring

When NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the league was opening the expansion process, at least four cities were expected to submit bids. But after the price — $10 million application fee, with $2 million nonrefundable — was announced, the league received two bids, and Seattle wasn’t one of them.
When NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the league was opening the expansion process, at least four cities were expected to submit bids. But after the price — $10 million application fee, with $2 million nonrefundable — was announced, the league received two bids, and Seattle wasn’t one of them. The Associated Press

Until 2 p.m. Monday, I doubted it was possible for a saga with an unresolved story line to be more tiresome than Russell Wilson’s stalled contract-extension talks with the Seahawks.

The blathering goes on and on, without even a slight twist to suggest closure will be achieved before the world’s youngest tortoises die of old age. We’re talking about stalemate in the most literal sense: It’s stale, mate.

But then the NHL’s deadline for submitting expansion-franchise applications passed without a bid from the Seattle area Monday, and it occurred to me that the possibility of the NHL arriving in Seattle — and/or the NBA returning to Seattle — makes Russell Wilson’s non-negotiations a story short and simple enough to tell a child at bedtime.

Thing is, I like hockey, and once was intrigued by the idea of a local NHL team representing Seattle. If nothing else, it would give sports fans something to talk about besides Seahawks contracts.

I’m no longer intrigued. What I am is tired. I’m tired of, well, you name it: Arenas that haven’t been built, business partnerships that haven’t been sustained, hopes that haven’t been realized.

I’m tired of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, a man I’ve never met but at least recognize. I’m tired of Connecticut investor Ray Bartoszek, a man I’ve never met and don’t recognize. (Although I’ve become proficient at spelling his first name: It’s Ray, as in Devil, and not Roy, as in Rob. I’m resigned to the suspicion I’ll never be able to spell his last name.)

It was thought Bartoszek, who has purchased property in Tukwila with the long-range ambition of building an arena for NHL hockey, would submit a $10 million expansion application — $2 million non-refundable — by the Monday deadline.

An application from a group determined to put a second team in Toronto also was rumored to be in play.

Turns out the only bids the league received were from Quebec City, former home of the Nordiques, and Las Vegas, former home of Bugsy Siegel.

Instead of picking up $8 million in a shameless money grab, the NHL had to settle for for a mere $4 million.

A moment of silence seems in order.

Bartoszek’s reluctance to file an expansion application likely has less to do with the $2 million he’d spend than with the $500 million the NHL would demand in case it accepted the application.

That’s right, Gary Bettman’s league was asking bidders to put $2 million down for the opportunity to put $500 million down on an expansion team destined to face at least five years of growing pains.

The NHL is the world’s premier hockey league, and thanks to some rules changes that have liberated offenses, the league never has offered better entertainment. But feel free to interpret $500 million expansion fees as a cry for help.

Buying a money-bleeding franchise, and relocating it, strikes me as quite more prudent than paying $2 million for the chance to pay an additional $500 million for an expansion franchise. Apparently, it also strikes Ray Bartoszek as more prudent.

By why take the suspense into the 11th hour and 59th minute?

The commissioner acknowledged he was on board with expansion at the owners meetings seven weeks ago, when $500 million first was mentioned as a round-number ante.

I doubt Bartoszek deliberated over this for seven weeks, but I’m not angry Seattle’s latest NHL flirtation concluded with the kind of whiff the Mariners typically produce when a game is on the line and there’s a runner on third.

Anger, at some point, yields to indifference. Enough, please, with the song and dance, the vapid talk of expansion and Coyote Ugly attempts at relocation.

I want this story to go away, but according to a tweet posted Monday afternoon by Hockey News columnist Ken Campbell, it’s not only not going away, it’s here to stay.

“Lack of bids from Toronto and Seattle a hit to their expansion/relocation hopes, but neither is dead,” Campbell informed. “Not by a long shot. Much can change.”

I am the definition of a flawed person, and I’ve long presumed my afterlife status will be as somebody assigned to the back end of the stand-by line. Little did I realize I’d already be sentenced to hell by a hockey team that never was, and likely never will be.

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